Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Black leaders slam Liverpool over Suarez row

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish (right) backed Luis Suarez over allegations of racism against Manchester United's Patrice Evra

Liverpool have been told by a group of local and national black leaders that they should issue an unreserved apology to Manchester United's Patrice Evra, having contributed to the "incitement of racism in football and the wider society" with their reluctant acceptance of Luis Suarez's punishment for using a racially derogatory term to Evra.

Suarez has never apologised directly to Evra and a revealing sense of how the controversy has provided an excuse for the racist minority to air their vitriol publicly was provided last week by youth worker and Liverpool FC scout Earl Jenkins. Now, in an open letter to the club and manager Kenny Dalglish, whose insistence that Suarez take a penalty in front of the Kop against Brighton on Sunday seemed a gesture of solidarity, the group have told Liverpool to accept publicly the findings of the FA-appointed independent regulatory commission once and for all. They are yet to offer such a comment.



Gloria Hyatt, who leads the group, said: "Liverpool FC has presided over the worst incident of racism in football seen in recent years. Their misguided handling of the ... saga has let down all of those in the city who work hard to challenge racism and to make Liverpool a better place to live for everyone."



Lee Jasper, the activist who was equality adviser to the Ken Livingstone during his time as Mayor of London, said: "The club, including the owners, the players and the manager need to realise the enormous damage caused by their reluctance and obdurate behaviour. Kenny Dalglish used to manage Celtic. He ought to know the importance of stamping out bigotry. The club failed the city, the nation as a whole, and Britain's black communities. Their abysmal lack of leadership on these issues has given a green light to racism. They must make urgent reparations ... and a clear and unequivocal apology."



The group's open letter says racism in football calls for "unambiguous anti-racist leadership" but that Liverpool's actions "fell short of the high standard of leadership expected for a team of their standing." The group has called for Liverpool, in partnership with ethnic minority organisations, to sponsor an international conference on the issue of eradicating racism in football.



Jenkins described how the Suarez affair had affected his Liverpool-supporting nephew for last week's Anfield Wrap podcast. "[He] doesn't want to go [to games] any more because for the first time he has seen our supporters racially abusing opposition players. He is scared to go." The abuse had occurred "two or three weeks ago" during an away match, Jenkins said. "[Racists] have felt comfortable saying that. They didn't before."